Naomi Klein speaks out!

Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously.

This is true in Greece, Spain and other places wilting under the German satrapy. Which isn’t what we would normally call neoliberalism if we are to be frank.

And, umm, where are these other people whose incomes have been slashed? Sure, there’s an unlucky 10% or so of the global population whose incomes neoliberalism hasn’t increased but that’s a rather different matter, isn’t it?

On that Uber ruling

The Adam Smith Institute said that the ruling could mean a small increase in Uber fares for passengers, but most of the increased costs would probably be passed on to drivers.

Well, quite.

Things like holiday and sick pay are incident upon the wages of the workers, just like employers’ national insurance and so on.

An oddity in The Guardian

Land that debt forgot: tiny Pacific country of Niue has no interest in loans

Apparently Niue has no money any more. Because according to Ritchie if you pay off the national debt then there is no money.

One of the world’s smallest countries has declared itself debt-free and is spending the extra money on increasing pensions and offering incentives to lure expatriates home.

Well, look at that, if you’re not spending the money on interest payments then you can do better things with the cash.

Amusing that The G highlights this really.

Well, yes, I suppose so

Everyone in government knows the Bank’s cut in the base rate to 0.5% in the aftermath of the crash and injection of £375bn into the financial system to reduce borrowing costs is what allowed Osborne to apply a tourniquet to public spending.

You have two stimulatory tools, fiscal and monetary policy. One can indeed offset the other. That’s rather the point in fact.

Has no one explained this to The Observer yet?

Err, yes Polly

There is only one way out of this. The British people may decide the cost is too high. Before anything has happened yet, they can see how the prospect of hard Brexit is already causing serious damage. The pound plunging by 17% is a national disaster, predicted to fall further: only those who supported Brexit whistle in the dark, pretending it’s good news. It will help a few manufacturers and Bond Street retailers of luxury goods, but our precarious over-dependence on imports means steep price rises ahead in petrol and food are rather more important than cheaper Burberry handbags.

The old dear never really has grasped economics, has she?

The falling pound is the solution to all those things. Imports will become more expensive, meaning that we shall buy less of them. This will switch demand to domestic production. That’s just how exchange rates work.


Conference on economic success without a price system

Paul Oquist, Nicaraguan minister for National Policy
Iván Márquez, Lead negotiator in Colombian peace talks (Video link)
Francisco Torrealba, Venezuelan Member of Parliament
HE Robert Calzadilla, Bolivian Ambassador
HE Teresita Vicente, Ambassador of Cuba
HE Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador
Chris Williamson, Former Labour MP
Tony Burke, AGS Unite the Union
Diana Holland, AGS Unite the Union
Gabriel Rodriguez, International Transport Federation
Andrew Murray, Unite the Union
Christine Blower, NUT
Kiri Trunks, NUT
Andy De La Tour, actor and writer
Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, US National Lawyers Guild
Keith Bolender, Canadian academic
George Galloway, former MP
Victoria Brittain, Journalist
Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau
Dr. Imti Choonara, Nottingham University
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Middlesex University
Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
Kate Hudson, CND
Dr. Steve Ludlam, Sheffield University

A fair and balanced panel with a true diversity of views, no?

So, let’s see if we can work this out

Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis
The oil-rich South American nation should be prospering. Instead it stands on the edge of an economic and humanitarian abyss

I’ve not actually read the piece yet so I’m wondering whether he will in fact give us the correct answer. Idiot economic policy.

The increasingly secretive central bank does not reveal how much it costs to print each bill, but based on international parameters, José Manuel Puente, an economist and professor with the Institute of Higher Administration Studies, estimates that the cost of paper, ink and printing of each note is about 20% more than their face value. “They are not worth what they cost. It’s a joke. But that’s the way things are,” he said.

I actually checked with a bank note printer. They wouldn’t reveal actual prices of course, but did say that the above was about right.

The government’s tendency to subsidise many products below the cost of production is a major reason why the economy is in such a mess.

Well, almost.

When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, he took this way of thinking a step further and used petrol dollars to subsidise essential products such as rice, sugar, toilet paper, sanitary towels and medicine.

It was an altruistic, populist move that allowed the poor to finally share in the nation’s oil wealth. But it also stifled incentives for producers and created a system of dependency and black-marketing that was already causing economic problems before Chávez died in 2013 and the global crude market collapsed the following year.

Well, no, that’s not quite right. Proper subsidy of something increases producer incentives. What Chavez and Maduro have done is price fixing which does kill incentives. But, you know, this is The Guardian, they might have the economic details wrong but they are at least insisting that the problem is idiot economic policy. So, Hurrah!

All about money, innit?

Poor and vulnerable Haiti remained essentially cut in half two days after Matthew hit, with routes to the devastated south blocked by flooding. Senator Herve Fourcand said that a preliminary figure counted more than 300 dead while Reuters reports that the civil protection saying that 339 people were killed. Haiti government government so far has said that 122 people were killed.

At least four people – three of them children – were killed in Haiti’s neighbour the Dominican Republic and more than 36,500 were evacuated, with 3,000 homes destroyed, flooded or damaged.

The wealthier Bahamas, which had more time to prepare, was less badly hit and there were no reports of fatalities, but there were power outages, some roads were cut and there was property damage.

This is what apartheid was all about in the first place

A quarter of a century ago black South Africans were living in squalor while most whites lived the good life in apartheid-era South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and four years later he took over as President from F W De Klerk and the pair shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
Apartheid – a grotesque and brutal form of government in which whites held all the power and blacks and other racial groups were segregated and oppressed – was condemned to the dustbin of history.
Nowadays there is a strange form of equality.
While the black South African middle class has grown and many live in big houses, with swimming pools and drive around in BMWs like their white peers; many poor whites live in squalid squatter camps just like their black peers.

South Africa always was, and still is by developed world standards, a low productivity economy. There’re thus going to be a lot of people who live pretty shitty lives in an economic sense. Apartheid was the structure which tried to make sure that who was decided upon the basis of skin colour (or race, description to your taste).

The whole point was not to make rich whites rich – it was to make sure that poor whites didn’t live like other Africans. And remove that racial distinction and there will be some whites living like other Africans. No, not because “Africans” but because it’s a low productivity economy and simply doesn’t generate enough income that all live those North Atlantic type economy lives.

One way of looking at this, an odd way to be sure, is that this is proof that apartheid has ended. When the privileged economic position that apartheid was meant to create no longer exists.

Interesting question

So, infant industry protection insists that you can only get an economy up and running if you protect said infant industries from foreign and more efficient competition. Thus tariffs!

Services generally do not face tariffs at all.

Some countries (India in programming?) have managed to build successful service industries without the protection of tariffs therefore.

What does this tell us about the case for tariffs and infant industry protection?


(That it’s bollocks is one useful answer of course)

This must be one of Chakrabortty’s

The lad never really did get the hang of economics:

A low wage economy comes with a heavy price tag. It is not only that employers have no incentive to invest in training or upgrading skills for their employees, or buying new equipment for their factories when they can increase productivity by hiring more cheap workers;

Buying new equipment replaces workers. This is exactly how the minimum wage reduces employment.


Well, this isn’t certain to say the least

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick said that Donald Trump’s suggestion to “find a country that works better for him” is “very ignorant”.

“It’s a very ignorant statement that, if you don’t agree with what’s going on, hearing that if you want justice and liberty and freedom for all, then you should leave the country,” Kaepernick said on Tuesday.

“He always says make America great again. Well, America has never been great for people of colour. And that’s something that needs to be addressed. Let’s make America great for the first time,” he said in a video shared by the Bay Area News Group.

Great compared to what? Compared to the average life in West or Central Africa over the past two centuries? Today? Compared to the average life anywhere two centuries ago?

Barring the occasional President or dictator (but I repeat myself) I’m not sure there’s anyone in West Africa currently living the lifestyle of an NFL quarterback.

Compared to how whites have been treated in the US these past two centuries yes, undoubtedly the blacks have been shafted. But what’s the correct comparison to be making about declaring somewhere “great?” There is at least an argument that a society in which even those shafted live better than almost any member of any previous human generation is doing pretty great. Even those getting shafted with nothing but the scraps of the welfare state are in the top 20% of the global income distribution (yes, after price changes across geography). Is that great or not?

No, not whether it could be greater, obviously every human construct could be that. But great or not?

That medical technology thing

Comment at The Observer:


“But the exciting new possibilities offered by genetic technology will be expensive and available only to elites. So the long century in which medicine had a “levelling up” effect on human populations, bringing good healthcare within the reach of most people, has come to an end. Even today, rich people live longer and healthier lives. In a couple of decades, that gap will widen into a chasm.”

As old Joe Schumpeter pointed out:

“The capitalist engine is first and last an engine of mass production which unavoidably also means production for the masses. . . . It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as a rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls. “

Mobile phones first became available, what, 35 years ago? £3,000 and a £ a minute or something? Now they’re £10 and maybe £20 for a month’s airtime? There’s also been some inflation in there. From, say two months average income to three hours, in one generation at most?

The truly astonishing thing about capitalism is how it makes these new things cheap for the masses. And how fast it makes them cheap for the masses. Medical technology is and will be no different to stockings and phones. How long did it take penicillin to go from priceless to cheap as chips? How long did Viagra’s patent last – 20 years from application date, of course.

There could be a bolus of inequality that moves through the system, true, as a pig through a python. But all of our experience is that new and expensive technologies become mass market ones within a generation.

So Danny Dorling believes in the efficient markets hypothesis then

This week, exactly two months after the vote for Brexit, I spent an hour on the property site Zoopla looking at the latest housing sale data available. Anyone can do this at the click of a button. Unlike the rise in stamp duty in April, which was well anticipated, the vote to leave the EU was not. And all markets react most strongly to the unanticipated.

Known information is already in prices, it is unknowns which become known which change prices.

Of course, if you actually asked Danny Dorling about the EMH he’d say it is nonsense. Because it’s neoliberal, you know.

But he does still believe in it.

This is interesting

A restaurant with a ‘pay what you want’ philosophy is facing closure because its customers are forking out less than $3 a meal on average.

No, it’s not just because it is vegan.

There was a bit of a flurry a few years back, economists noting that people, when asked to pay what they thought something was worth, were quite generous in their estimations of what it was worth.

This showed that we’re all caring sharing beings and thus socialism or summat.

My own reading is that we’ll be nice and kind occasionally. Often even, but not when the entire system allows us to not to be. At that point short term self-interest will take over. Which is why the or summat economic systems don’t work in the long term.

You really can get people to pull together for some great purpose for some period of time. You can’t exclude the normal price system for long periods of time though. ‘Coz people is peoples.

Another way to put this is that altruism most definitely works. But not over long periods of time with strangers. The people who manage that we end up calling saints.


And no, I don’t seriously believe a word of the nonsense you’ve just read. But then you probably guessed it was parody, because nobody with an ounce of sense talks like that about men. We don’t treat male career implosion as biologically determined or sadly inevitable, don’t leap quite so often from half-baked guesswork about one man’s motives to sweeping generalisations about all men.

Say something similarly stupid about women, however, and plenty of people will nod vigorously in agreement. Of course women just don’t really want what men have got! They’d frankly rather be at home with their kids. Even the ones that, um, don’t have kids. It’s only natural.

When we are summing across the population to reach the average then by definition we’re talking about sweeping generalisations.

If 10% of women have a different attitude towards employment then the average for all women will be different.

Oh, look, what do we see?

Female employment rate 69.6 %

Male employment rate 79.2%

That is, of course, working age population.

Good, so we’ve established that, on average, there is a difference between men and women in their desire for employment.